Ehud Barak and the Hanukkah lights

It is clear that the fragile constellation that makes up the Jewish state of Israel will be shaken and hurt by events like the disturbing confrontation at the Ephraim Brigade military headquarters between young, angry youth and the young, conscripted soldiers. Yet no event happens in a vacuum. These young people called the “hilltop youth” are passionate and idealistic youth that are slowly being pushed into a position of spiritual anarchism.

Generally anarchists hold to a philosophy that believes that the concept of a state is both unnecessary and harmful. That would not be the case with these youth. These youth grew up with the concept of the sanctity of a “state” that can be the framework for a higher purpose. Regrettably they have experienced a “state” that has expelled them from their homes, has labeled them, maligned them and has inflicted punishment on them on the basis of suspicion and not necessarily due to any sort of activity. They are a group of passionate young people who have been betrayed by cynicism and small minded politics. Yet all this cannot excuse an attack on fellow Jews.

What concerns me more, are the leaders and generals who have perhaps purposefully pushed these young people into this corner. It becomes especially dangerous when such leadership comes with an “impulsivity issue” combined with arrogance and conceit.

It seems as the Defense minister of Israel, Mr. Ehud Barak falls into such a category. While such impulsivity can sometimes express itself in courageous and daring military actions, they can also be dangerous tendencies when trying to lead a nation. In the past, Barak attempted to “force” Arafat to accept over 90% of the disputed territories in an ill conceived impulsive night at Camp David. It was that same impulsive tendency according to some military observers that led to Barak’s pullout from Lebanon that spawned the rise of the Hezbollah. He was also a fervent supporter of the disastrous disengagement from Gaza and Northern Shomron in 2005 that initiated the rise of Hamas into power .His off the cuff responses in interviews in which he expresses understanding as to why the Iranians desire nuclear weapons and why terrorists commit terror are not the responses of a well balanced political leader. His impulsive declaration at the Herzliya Conference in 2010 that “Israel was in danger of becoming an apartheid nation.” was another irresponsible usage of the same explosive incendiary language used by all of Israel’s enemies.

It was not surprising to discover that on the days before the disturbing confrontation at the Ephraim Brigade military headquarters Ehud Barak had unilaterally decided to call for the immediate destruction of Ramat Gilad. For that purpose he arranged for the mobilization of IDF soldiers and border police. All this preparation for destruction was going on at a time when Member of Parliament Benny Begin was hammering out an agreement between the state and the residents. Israeli radio reported that when Barak was informed of this arrangement he impulsively declared that he just didn’t like the agreement that was hammered out.

When his plans of destruction were frustrated, Ehud Barak again acted in an impulsive and arrogant fashion with his quick appointment of Commander Nitzan Alon to head the Israel Defense Forces’ Central Command. Former Judea and Samaria Division commander Nitzan Alon statements against the region’s Jewish community in the past do not bode well for the future. Yet Ehud Barak seems to want to make it clear that no one should interfere with his decisions. Barak would do well to look over his shoulder at a plaque on his wall.

Great military leaders make great military leaders. Yet, great military leaders do not usually make great leaders. Great generals have great difficulty understanding the needs or the importance of each individual. They have great difficulty in even understanding the scope and depth of the democratic process. The greater trap waiting to engulf every great general is the exaggerated belief in one’s own power and might.

On the festival of Chanukah, we celebrate the victory of the small army of Maccabees over the oppressive Greek warlords. It was the victory of the small group of faithful against the large hordes of the faithless. Miraculously, the few overwhelmed the many.

Yet, the focus of the festival of Chanukah seems to highlight the smaller miracle of the jar of oil. The little jar of oil that was found untouched and pure, and that had enough oil to last for one day, lasted, in fact, for the eight days needed to produce more oil. The Maharal asks the question why such emphasis is put on such a wonderful yet small miracle, which is much less impactful than the victory of the few against the many. The military victory, the Maharal explains, was a great miracle. Yet, the source of such a great miracle can usually be confused with military power and tactics. The Divine origins of such a victory can be lost amidst the din of the pompous self-adulation of the generals and the victors.

G-d used the jar of oil as a signature, to clarify the author of all miracles.

This is the message we hear in the Haftara read during Hanukkah. Zachariah describes a vision of another menorah with two olive trees on either side. When he asks the angel Gabriel to explain the meaning behind the vision he is told;

“This is the word of HaShem unto Zerubbavel, saying: ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, ‘said HaShem of hosts”

It is this vision that became symbolized by the official symbol of the State of Israel, a menorah flanked by two olive branches. As Defense Minister Barak sits in his office, this emblem hangs on his wall. All he has to do is look over his shoulder.

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